Space Acquisitions: DOD Faces Challenges in Fully Realizing Benefits of Satellite Acquisition Improvements

March 21, 2012

What GAO Found

Last year, GAO testified that though acquisition problems still existed in many space programs, the Department of Defense (DOD) was beginning to launch satellites that had long been lagging behind schedule and it had taken positive actions to instill better practices and more focused leadership for space. Progress has continued. Over the past year, DOD launched the first Navy Mobile User Objective System (MUOS) satellite; the first, after a nine-year delay, of six Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) geosynchronous earth orbit (GEO) satellites; and the first Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) satellite—all of which will bring important capability to the warfighter. While these launches represent solid progress, there have also been some drawbacks. For instance, the second Global Positioning System (GPS) IIF satellite experienced technical problems that could shorten its operational lifetime. The cost of the first two GPS III satellites is at least18 percent higher than first estimated, up to $1.6 billion today. A 1-year delay is expected by SBIRS program officials on production of the 3rd and 4th GEO satellites along with a $438 million cost overrun. And, a termination of the Defense Weather Satellite System (DWSS) may result in a capability gap. Moreover, even though problems have been overcome, DOD must still contend with the effects of its previous difficulties on its investment portfolio.

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